Evil Is Sterile
Evil is a corruptive and destructive force only, fundamentally incapable of creation or goodness.
Needs Examples Better Name Tropeworthy? Motion To Discard

(permanent link) added: 2011-07-22 13:43:42 sponsor: bradpara edited by: Hero_Gal_2347 (last reply: 2014-08-15 11:22:22)

Add Tag:
Formerly Evil Can't Create. Grabbing this from bradpara as per Up for Grabs status.

The nature of evil is difficult to define. It is, after all, a highy subjective concept, which we never encounter in any truly concrete form. And so, writers have different ideas as to what evil means, what are its goals, its methods, its limitations.

One weakness typicall ascribed to the forces of evil is that they cannot create. The Power of Creation is seen as positive and Good, the purview of a God who is probably the Big Good of any given mythos. So, Evil Is Sterile. It cannot create, cannot imagine or have new ideas, certainly cannot produce new forms of life, because Creating Life Is Awesome. It may be able to propogate, but only in the manner of The Virus, by turning everything into more of itself, without the possibility of evolution, or the retention of the unique qualities that once inhabited what existed before.

Beings who have fallen under evil control, whether they are Reforged into a Minion or taken over by their Superpowered Evil Side, become cruder and twisted versions of themselves. They may gain power, but they lose crucial aspects that once made them special, and will probably not behave very intelligently.

Ultimately, the hope of this kind of evil is to, at best, corrupt the whole world into being just like itself, and at worst, destroy everything. The possibility of making something new and different is anathema to it.

A typical bonus is that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. See also Evil Knockoff, The Corruption and Creative Sterility. Contrast Good Is Impotent.


  • In TRON and its sequel, Master Control and Clu respectively had this issue, which is why they were so big on repurposing opposing Programs.
  • The anti-war nightmare cartoon Wizards has a minor subplot involving the evil mutants' inability to create (healthy, sustainable) life.

  • This philosophy creeps steadily into the Belgariad's sequel series, the Malloreon. There are two Prophecies working at odds for the future of creation, and in the first series these are presented as simple good and evil, the Prophecies of Light and Dark. The sequel series gets into the idea that good and evil are subjective, and makes the Prophecies more about progress and stagnation, respectively. The good Prophecy wants to create a future in which new things happen, whereas the evil Prophecy wants everything to remain the same forever. The principle is aptly described by Garion's speech near the climax:
    You cannot lock me into immobility. If I change only one little thing, you've lost. Go stop the tide if you can, and leave me alone to do my work.
    • Also by David Eddings, The Redemption of Althalus has 3 gods in it; Daeva, the god of destruction who basically wants to destroy the universe just because it exists at all, cannot create anything new.
  • In the Keys to the Kingdom book series, it is mentioned that only The Architect, The Old One, or humans can create anything original. The Denizens can only copy things they've seen. This becomes important later.
  • A defining metaphysical law in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Evil cannot create anything new, they can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made. Melkor/Morgoth, the equivalent of Satan and creator of evil, desires to remake the world according to his image, but his image isn't terribly imaginitive, and he's fundamentally incapable of creating new life. He gains armies and servants by perverting and twisting existing beings (the Orcs, in some versions, are corrupted Elves), or by gaining the loyalty of existing spirits (the Balrogs and possibly the Dragons are his Fallen Angels).

    In the beginning of The Silmarillion, when the World is designed in cosmic song, Melkor attempts to take over the Music by interjecting of his own theme. It's "brash and repetitive," all brute force without subtlety, and it only perverts the concepts introduced by Eru (the equivalent of God) rather than inventing new ones.
  • In Mistborn, the two gods, Ruin and Preservation, can only create when they work together, which they are inherently loath to do. Ruin in particular is fundamentally unable to improve any situation, but instead leads everything toward chaos and destruction, which is just the way he likes it. At the end of the series, both gods are destroyed, and a main character takes in both of their powers, with which he can do essentially whatever he likes.
  • The Big Bad of Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker is the Un-Maker, a being of malevolence to all existence. As an entity of non-being, it is incapable of making or creating anything, even something non-physical, like a plan for undoing the works of Alvin Maker. It instead has to rely on its willing human tools to do that sort of thing for it.
  • In the Tour of the Merrimack series, the Hive is said only to learn and adapt, and unable to conceive new ideas.

Video Games
  • In the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion Shivering Isles, the amazingly creepy Knights of Order and their master Jyggalag are said to have no original thoughts whatsoever. Their fighting style reflects this - Jyggalag uses some spells, but the knights just swing swords at you until you or they die. When Order tries subterfuge, Sheogorath concludes that things aren't going so bad - Order doesn't try creativity unless everything else has failed, and they suck at it.
  • Fallout, the super mutants who are out to make all other humans mutants and destroy anything they can't transform, turn out to be sterile. This is a major plot point, as their Visionary Villain leader thinks mutants are the next evolution of humanity, and the revelation that every one of them is unable to reproduce means their race is doomed to eventually die out.

replies: 46

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy